At face value, bringing back Turd Sandwich vs. a Giant Douche is pretty lazy for a show that is so uncannily fresh like South Park. In “Member Berries,” the first episode of the 20th season of Comedy Central’s animated franchise, Hillary Clinton represents the Turd Sandwich while Mr. Garrison’s representation of Donald Trump is the Giant Douche, and the citizens of South Park are just as torn between the candidates today as they were 12 seasons ago, when they were the mascot finalists for South Park Elementary.
But the use of this season eight joke in Wednesday night’s premiere plays a significant role in what Matt Stone and Trey Parker are setting up for the newest continuous story, one that rolls over from last season. At least we hope it plays a purpose, because we like to think the edgy humor is still sharper than ever, and calling Clinton a Turd Sandwich and Trump a Giant Douche seems dull in this ridiculous 2016 presidential election. Far worse is said daily by common people on Twitter and Facebook, and that’s seemingly why this attitude of “they both suck” has been resurrected and revamped. Not to mention the fact that complaining about both candidates, as Stan points out, has become a cliché.
“Member Berries” was far deeper than it seems, so let’s examine the stories that Parker and Stone have set up for this season.
“We all want something new that makes us remember the things we love.”
The key story for season 20 is faux nostalgia, or at least it’s one of the most prominent stories. Through “member berries,” Randy and others who long for a simpler time can revisit the things they love most while ignoring the horrors of present day. That’s pretty damn timely, between our constant reliance on ‘80s and ‘90s pop nostalgia (*looks around nervously, wipes sweat from brow*) and politicians routinely beating their drums over what used to be.
“’Member Chewbacca again? Oh, I love to remember Chewbacca! Hey, hey… ‘member when there weren’t so many Mexicans?”
If you dive down enough holes on Twitter — or simply follow Mike Huckabee — you’ll find too many people who actively practice this brand of “nostalgia,” pining for a simpler, safer America in which we didn’t get called out for overt racism by internet strangers, or we could complain about different religions or sexual preferences without fear of losing our jobs because of negative Yelp reviews. It’s only fitting that Randy Marsh, the guy who gets sucked into more fads and movements than any South Park character, is the one who first witnesses the casual racism of the member berries, so we can clearly look forward to him getting to the bottom of that issue as the season continues.
“Wendy, go ahead, be funny.”
At the same time, the faux nostalgia is present in Eric Cartman’s angle as the “concerned activist” trying to tell people how funny and awesome women are by rebooting fairy tales to make up for the sins of the past. Think this is an exaggerated take? Again, spend a few hours on Twitter or in the comments of a post about all-female reboots, and Cartman’s latest crusade makes sense. What’s even better about his character is how he takes on the tough guys who want instant contradiction, or else their point is automatically valid, demanding that Wendy and Bebe tell funny jokes like, “My vagina.” If anything, Cartman’s catchphrases never stop being hilarious.
Where can Cartman go with this? It’s hard to imagine that we won’t get South Park’s take on the Leslie Jones hacking incident, or maybe they’ll offer a wicked perspective on the constant attacks against Amy Schumer. Best-case scenario, this season of South Park will make us all realize that there is common ground for both sides in the terribly aggravating cinematic “gender war”: Enough with the reboots already.
“Americans need an anthem that inspires and incites.”
What really jumped out at me was the line “You’d have to be an asshole not to stand and support it,” regarding J.J. Abrams’ new take on the national anthem, mainly because athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick was on the screen when the announcer said it. Does this mean Parker and Stone think Kaepernick is an asshole because he won’t stand? I don’t think so. My take is that they’re mocking the sports talking heads and sports fans in general who have been flooding your Facebook and Twitter feeds with hot takes about what the anthem means. Like Trent Dilfer saying a backup QB’s job is to sit in the shadows in silence, and not use his notoriety to fight child slavery “because of the team, man.”
Whatever the case may be, the point made throughout this episode is that people will do whatever it takes to avoid a real, concrete solution to our problems. Is someone kneeling during the anthem? Let people sit, stand, kneel – whatever! Take away the ability to focus on and speak out against the actual problem and people can go back to pining for a simpler America.
“When we actually get into the White House, what are we going to do?”
Stone and Parker told Vanity Fair last week that they wouldn’t be taking on Trump because reality has passed comedy at this point in the election. However, Garrison picked up where he left off at the end of season 19, running for president with Caitlyn Jenner as his running mate. And let’s just state the obvious: Garrison is Trump. It’s in the way he acts, his bombastic threats/promises, and even the fake color of his skin. But now, Garrison has realized that he cannot possibly f*ck 7.6 million people to death in his first year in office, so he needs a way out of the campaign. He needs to lose without looking like he’s given up, but he also can’t win, because everyone will see that he’s a fraud.
Neither Trump nor his supporters will admit this, obviously, because it’s a loaded political accusation, but that sure does seem like what the GOP nominee is doing at times. Even if it’s not, Garrison back-peddling on his promise to f*ck every immigrant to death still perfectly mock’s Trump’s own back-peddling on multiple issues, as well as his claims that he didn’t say something that we all know he said. They may not be able to top the reality of Trump vs. Clinton, but Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich is more appropriate than ever, no matter how recycled it might seem.
“SkankHunt42 is gonna pay for everything he’s ever said.”
This might be the most interesting story of the season: Kyle’s dad as the online troll harassing children. It recalls the story of “Violentacrez,” the terrible Reddit troll behind some truly despicable subreddits, because it’s a reminder that the worst among us online can be the most normal among us in reality. But how will the girls, thinking that Cartman is SkankHunt42, take it out on their constant enemy? How will Cartman respond to these false accusations? If Cartman isn’t the troll, then what is the point of his campaign for equality? And what will Kyle do when he learns that the trolling is coming from his own house?
Leaving a lot of questions to be answered at the end of an episode was never South Park’s thing until recently, but it sure makes the series even more refreshing and fun as we wait for next Wednesday’s episode.